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Japan Where I've Been

Japanese Etiquette for Tourist

Learn Japanese Etiquettes

The Japanese value proper manners and it shows once you visit Japan. As a tourist , you should be familiar with at least the basic ones to avoid any awkward situation. They do not expect foreigner to know all the Japanese etiquettes , so they tolerate what we are not familiar with.

Japanese Etiquettes
Japanese etiquettes

But it is important to understand a few these etiquettes before you visit Japan ; so you want to leave a favourable impression, as a tourist so learn these basic etiquettes.

Social Japanese Etiquettes

If travelling by bus or train, it is considered really rude if you :

  1. Listen to loud music
  2. Eat or drink while commuting
  3. Talk on your cell phone, you must keep it on silent mode
  4. Do not form a straight line before getting on a train
  5. Not removing your backpack
  6. Smoke ; since 2009 smoking is prohibited in train station and also in the streets of Japan
  7. Give up your seat for the elderly or pregnant women
  8. If you talk loudly , be silent . Many Japanese are very work oriented and use the train system to disconnect or sleep, respect the silence.

Business Japanese Etiquettes

If you have a business meeting in Japan , it is important to understand these business etiquettes:

  1. When meeting your host , you can either shake hands or a formal bow but NOT both , that is considered awkward.
  2. Upon giving your business card or meishi, represent it with both hands and do not hide the information , allow the host to take it with both hands as well.
  3. Upon receiving the business card , examine it with respect
  4. Do not just grab the business card and put in immediately in your back pocket or wallet, that is considered rude.
  5. If you are to be seated in an office ,wait until they allow you to sit or when they say ” please have a seat ”

Japanese Dining Etiquettes

Once again , the Japanese do not except you to know all their etiquettes but to be respectful you should know at least the basic ones.

  1. In almost all restaurants I have been to in Japan, a hot towelette is given to you, called oshibori, this is to wipe your hands before you eat and NOT your face or during your meal.
  2. Chopsticks should NEVER be held vertically in your bowl of rice. Never point with chopsticks , or talk while holding chopsticks. Place them down if you are having a conversation.
  3. Use soya sauce and place in in the empty bowl, do not soak your sushi it is considered bad mannered. Make sure you do not mix the wasabi with the soya, it will offend the chef.
  4. If you attend a team ceremony, please remove your shoes upon entering & respect the silence . Tea ceremonies is to promote tranquility.
  5. No need to tip in restaurants. In the event you really want to tip some helpful person, you must discreetly put it in an envelope.
  6. Use the tray to handle paying. I have seen this custom everywhere, at hotels, restaurants , store or even a small mom & pop store. Gently put your money on the tray and if change is required, they will return it back on the tray.

Japanese Ryokan Etiquettes

Ryokans are typical Japanese ” hotels” where you truly feel the authentic Japanese experience. If you go to Japan, you MUST experience a Ryokan.

  1. You must always remove your shoes before entering a Ryokan; please protect the tatami floors wearing slippers or stay barefoot. Do not drag your suitcase on the tatami floors, it is frowned upon.
  2. Yukata are offered in a Ryokan for your comfort, obviously it is not yours to keep. You can have your Yukata for breakfast or going to the Onsen.Yukatas are like a traditional indoor kimono.
  3. Upon check out there is no need to tip as it is not customary to tip in Japan.
  4. Japanese baths are made to soak and relax not to bath or wash . Most Ryokans have a shower place where you can wash and once all soap is off you can soak in the bath or Onsen.

Temples & Shrines

  1. Be silent and respectful upon entering a temple, please remove your shoes.You usually leave your shoes on a shell at the entrance.
  2. Temples or shrines are very sacred therefore it is advisable to check if photography is prohibited , please respect this.

As you can see there are many etiquettes but do not worry the Japanese tolerate tourist just learn a few to avoid awkwardness or worse to appear bad mannered.

Always remember in every country you visit, ” once in Rome , do like the Romans”

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5 Comment

  1. Great post! My wife is Japanese and her parents and siblings live in Japan. So we go often.

    These are great tips of which people should be aware. I love the trains there. So clean and quiet.

    Also, never share food by passing between chopsticks. Don’t go into your hosts’ refrigerator. Off bounds. Don’t wash your hands in a kitchen sink, unless doing dishes. Don’t be obnoxious and loud, anywhere. Don’t chase and take photos of Maiko. Don’t eat/drink and walk at the same time. And take your trash with you.

    You’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you violate Japan’s rules. And possibly find yourself talking to the keisatsukan!

    Awesome post! I want to go back!

    1. Hi Matt

      Yes your tips are great as well, thanks adding them. me too, I know I will go back, first there is so much to see and do .
      Second, I love the Japanese, the most polite culture ever. Thanks

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